Comics That Rock: SING NO EVIL by JP Ahonen & KP Alare

This comic book (or graphic novel, if you prefer) is a collection that mixes art, music and fantasy into a story of a bunch of friends trying to make it to the next level as a band. And it takes place in Finland...cool.

A story of pure rock angst, SING NO EVIL follows the band, Perkeros, and their frontman, Aksel, on a quest to tame the rock n' roll beast. Can he control and become a conduit for the wild music he hears in his head.

JP Ahonen and KP Alare create an intoxicating comic about a band in search of that elusive sound that will bring them to the next level. It is also about the struggle to be a creative artist and struggle with job, school, relationships, etc. There is a lot of humor woven in, and a love of metal. 

If you're into comics and music, and want to experience both blended together in a mystical tale of searching for that perfect song, you'll want to pick up SING NO EVIL. The tale is told from the perspective of the bandmates, specifically lead crooner, Aksel, as he struggles to harness the musical visions he hears within.

I got a chance to meet JP Ahonen at an event at the Abrams office right before NY Comic Con in October, and he was cool, humble and a hell of a nice guy. I received a copy of SING NO EVIL that night, and was immediately drawn in by the terrific title as well as Ahonen's beautiful and fun art style. 

He somehow manages to capture the surreal experience of attending a live show: encompassed by a wall of blearing sound, struggling among the heated, claustrophobic crowd, and letting the music just sweep you away. To be able to do this in a comic, is an accomplishment in my book. And this book would make a great gift for someone interested in music, especially if that person likes heavy rock. The following image is just one example of the chaotic harmony that is experiencing live music and it's just spot on. 


The Art of Space by Ron Miller PLUS a giveaway

Do you remember the first science fiction book cover art that really struck you? Can you recall a stylized film or television show that hooked you on science fiction? Maybe it was a comic book cover from the Silver Age. I recall Star Wars having something to do with it for me as a little boy. I was hooked  at the pure imagination of it. Other worlds, magnificent spaceships, aliens; all of it drew me in.

I was recently sent by the good folks at the Zenith Press, a copy of The Art of Space: The History of Space Art, From the Earliest Visions to the Graphics of the Modern Era
from award-winning artist and best-selling author Ron Miller, and it is a collection that is out of this world.

Miller covers each era of space art, and how it was developed at the time with the resources, knowledge and vision of the artists of the day. He covers individual artists and movements from the decades, and brings to life over 350 incredible illustrations with informative discussion and background on each.

The book includes some of Miller's own incredible work such as Upsilon Andromedae [above] as part of section 2: Stars and Galaxies. Also covered are Planets & Moons, Spaceships & Space Stations, Space Colonies & Cities and lastly...Aliens. It is an inspiring collection, and offers a lot of history of space-themed art, and would make a great gift for any fan of space age artwork or fan of science fiction in general.

And Zenith Press send me a second copy TO GIVE AWAY to one lucky reader of my blog. All you have to do to be eligible is write in the comments section a favorite or memorable book cover or piece of SF art that hooked you. I will select a winner at random from the comments and contact you via email (or ask you to email me) so that I can send off the book.

*This contest will end November 30th, I'll pick a winner December 1st and make contact. Thanks for following along and now get back to whatever book you were reading.


Release day: STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel #Station11

STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel

This book isn't only about Shakespeare. Or the apocalypse. Or fortune and fame. Or celebrity. Or the value of friendship. Or the meaning of family. Or secrets. Or shared pasts. Or nostalgia. Or an uncertain future.

This book is not about survival. Or murder. Or loosing everyone you've ever loved. It is not about mad men. Or false communities. Or false prophets. Or going down the wrong path. Or disappearing forever.

It is not about performance art. Or facade. Or art for art's sake. Or art for personal pleasure. It is not about theater. Or about music. Or a last plane ride. Or that last cup of coffee. 

It is not about comic books. Or science fictional escape. It is not about fathers and sons. Or brothers and sisters.

It is not about a stranger trying to save a man's life. It is not about those who survive letting the past go. And this book is not about remembering it as well.

It is about all of those things, and more.

I really feel Station Eleven has something for everyone. It is a special book.

[Disclaimer: This book is published by Knopf, an imprint of Penguin Random House. I work for DK, also an imprint of Penguin Random House. I was not coerced into writing this review. The opinions expressed in this blog are my own. I do work for the company who publishes this book, but I write about it here because it is terrific and you should read it, and not because I had to. That is all. I made the font size of the disclaimer smaller, because, isn't it always?]


Upcoming Comics Collaboration: Mike Allred and Warren Ellis on The Spirit of Bacardi

Every now and then a pretty amazing sounding comics collaboration comes around and when I heard about this new project from Bacardi Rum (yes, that is a new comic book coming from the makers of Bacardi rum), well I just had to share it. 

Bacardi assembled the dynamic team of legendary comics scribe, Warren Ellis, and Madman creator, Mike Allred, to collaborate and tell the story of the Bacardi family, through the plight of Emilio Bacardi, the revolutionary figure from the Bacardi family history.

Everything Warren Ellis writes is worth a gander as he's up there in that league of amazing talents that warrant a look whenever he puts pen to paper, or clicks at the keyboard, as that's the way it generally goes these days.

I received these terrific promotional photos, and Bacardi has a teaser trailer featuring some behind the scenes/interview type bits about the collaboration with the two wacky (and beloved) creators on their site. And here's the coolest part -- The Spirit of BACARDÍ will be available to download from BACARDI.COM on August 6th. 

That is a nice piece of promotion, and I am very much looking forward to reading what two of my favorite comics creators come up with based on the extraordinary life of Emilio Bacardi. If this photo of Senior Allred at his drafting table isn't enough to whet your appetite, I don't know what'll do it. I'm intrigued...

Check out the reference photo of Emilio Bacardi to Mike's left, underneath the plexiglass of his working desk. I read in an interview years ago that Mike likes to cover his desk with inspirational images as seen here, and work right on top of the plexiglass, letting the images below drive him in whatever project he's working on. Pretty cool if you ask me.

Now listen, I'll be the first to admit I've been known to be partial to a bit of the rum myself, so there's that (okay, I said it). I also happen to think as a publishing professional and lifelong lover of comics that when a company reaches out to tell their company/family story in an interesting way, WITH COMICS, and they reach out to two respected creators such as this, this looks to be a project worth my time. I hope to find out more soon and will report back, or check it out yourselves.

Disclaimer: I have NOT been paid or bribed with promises of endless supplies of rum to write this post (I just really like Mike Allred and Warren Ellis & comics) but I would not turn away an unexpected supply of the good stuff should it be delivered to my doorstep. Carry on.


Books and sunshine on my mind: THIS ONE SUMMER by Julian and Mariko Tamaki

Sometimes books find their way to me in funny ways. Call it serendipity. I look for books everywhere and try to read new and different things although there never seems to be enough time. As I was leaving work on a summer Friday, on a shelf where people place extra books you can take, I saw a copy of THIS ONE SUMMER and picked up this graphic novel to take home. It reminded me of summers spent at the Jersey Shore as a kid, and I wanted to follow the story of Rose and Windy, remembering what it was like to almost be a teen.

When I got home a few hours later, I opened the Sunday New York Times book review section, I saw a wonderful review praising the book. I was glad I picked it up and I can't wait to continue reading it. Just have to finish one or two things first, but I thought it was worth mentioning.


A Long Time Coming, reading Y THE LAST MAN volume by volume

Last weekend I was looking through my collection of comics trade paperbacks on my shelves, some of which I've read and others I have not, and I happened upon a series which I always intended to read and just never got around to it. Until now.

So, with great excitement I cracked open volume 1 of Y the Last Man just a few days ago and jumped right in. I've a few holes in my collection and was able to purchase volume 3 digitally, and borrow volume 5 from a friend. I'll likely buy these so that I have the whole trade paperback collection in print for the library.

It is just a few days later, and I'm midway through volume 5, and enjoying the series very much. 

Thought I should just report in, with that reading update. And if you're like me and haven't read this great series yet. It's not too late.


And the Party Rages On

A psychedelic cocktail of scenes and images from books and film come to mind when thinking about how to explain Afterparty by Daryl Gregory. When I was contacted and asked if I'd read and review this novel, I had to admit, I was intrigued. Maybe I pictured Morpheus giving me a choice, but this time with the yellow pill featured on the book jacket. Maybe. Either way, down the rabbit hole I was going.
First thing that came to mind while reading was SF master, Philip K Dick and for me, his work, A Scanner Darkly, one of the clear inspirations. Clearly PKD was whispering in the author's ear late into the night.

In Gregory's novel we are jettisoned into the near future after the Smart Drug revolution, where any school kid with a chem-jet and access to the net can download and print designer drugs. 

As you can imagine, this revolutionizes things and when a new, god-like drug known as Numinous leads a street kid to addiction and suicide, it gets personal for one Lyda Rose, especially because she was one of the original scientists who designed the drug.

Troubled by the guilt of loosing those close to her while fighting her own addictions, Lyda sets off on a journey across the country to track down the new source of this mind-altering drug and stop the spread and the pseudo-religious following that continues to flourish. "Finding god" becomes a phrase used too often in this novel, and the author does a good job of exploring exactly what it means to find religion under the auspices of mind-altering designer drugs.

If you're looking for a wild ride across country in pursuit of a hot but dangerous drug, a trek only Hunter S. Thompson could appreciate, then this is the book for you. 


RedDevil 4 by Eric C. Leuthardt

Imagine it. A time right ahead of where we are right now. The not so distant future where neurotransmitters are implanted in everyone's brain.

Oh wait, it's not that far-fetched because we already have technology like this and well beyond its infancy. We are aware that tomorrow can easily become today. That much we know, things like Google Glass, microprocessors and need I say the threat of a real Skynet? (Stay off the grid, man.)

Real life neurosurgeon and biomedical engineer, Eric C. Leuthardt, has taken much of his knowledge from his incredible day job and mixed it into a dynamic story about what can go drastically wrong in the near future.

In REDDEVIL 4, we follow Dr. Hagan Maerici, who spends his days—and most nights—in his lab, working on his near breakthrough with artificial intelligence. Not only is his job on the line, as his boss constantly hounds him for results, but it is not playing out well at home, mostly because he's never there. His wife's patience is drawing thin. And just when you think this combined stress might be too much for him, it gets much worse.

A string of grizzly murders, all connected to prominent citizens, baffles the police. Two detectives, Krantz and Goldwin, are assigned the case, which takes them to Maerici, and due to his research he comes up with a theory about the suspects' neural implants. And down the rabbit hole they go.

When I was asked to read and review this book, I was too intrigued to let it slip by. It sounded pretty good and look at that jacket. It's terrific and terrifying in the most subtle way. The digital image seems even more layered than even the printed edition and mimics the artificial intelligence interface the doctor interacts with in the story. So yes, in full disclosure, I was asked to read this novel and participate in a blog tour, and I regret nothing.

And yes, in all honestly, this novel being written by a neurosurgeon did have a couple of moments of "medical speak" that called for a few befuddled moments and re-reads. There were more than a few times when the good Doctor Maerici had to explain to other characters just exactly what he was talking about. 

But... with that came a level of medical expertise not often seen in novels of this ilk. And this reality-infused high level of knowledge made the story scarier, made it more real. Well, because it is. Scary when you think about it. Made for quite the interesting read if I do say so myself. I won't say anymore about it, go find out for yourself. Or perish.


The Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price and Why Me?

Imagine the end of the world. And in this version of The End, for reasons unknown to you, a powerful sphere that surrounds you somehow magically protects you, while at the same time allowing you to see the world around you enveloped in an otherworldly bright light and be destroyed.

Crazy, right?

Even crazier, perhaps, imagine then waking up in a place similar to where you were when this all went down, but somehow even though the world looks the same, its also different. You wonder if you dreamed it all. Then you start to notice little things that aren't right or the same, and as you wonder if you are in fact going crazy, you begin to figure out you're not in the same place you had been when the protective sphere shielded you. This place is different and you don't know why until the differences of this world slowly make it clear.

The Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price starts off with a strange occurrence happening on the highway. Two siblings witness an unexplained disaster while they interact with a mysterious visitor that hearkens of a future event of impossible-to-comprehend relevance.

Then we jump several years ahead and meet those two sisters again—along with four other strangers—and witness through their eyes the foretold cataclysmic event and reawakening.

Why? Where am I? What happened? These are some of the questions the "six" wrestle with as they're "brought in" by s group of scientists promising to explain the differences of this reality.

The Flight of the Silvers is an intriguing novel occurring in a parallel universe where incredible things happen, people have extraordinary abilities, and a few survivors from our world have to discover why they were chosen to go there. To find out why, pick up a copy.

[Disclosure: this post also appeared on Vorpalizer, the official blog of the SFBC, where I am a guest blogger, and a former Editor. Second disclosure: the above title is published by Blue Rider Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, where I happen to work for another imprint, DK. My decision to post about this book was not specifically work related, except that it involves books, which is my work.]


SPACEHAWK by Basil Wolverton, a brilliant & otherworldly collection from Fantagraphics

I picked up this collection last year from Fantagraphics, and honestly, it is stunning. The colors and lines of Basil Wolverton's work -- on the cover alone -- are terrific. Once you dip into the pages and it is like exploring psychedelic space ways and far out locations. His spacecraft and machinations are creative and harken back to a time of science fiction comics that laid the ground work for so much that has come in later years.

The Fantagraphics collection, is massively oversize, I'm talking "artist edition" type size, and as much as I love to see all the detail and colors in this big size, it is somewhat unwieldy. After all, if I put every "coffee table book" I own on my actual coffee table, well that table would be stacked.

I would have personally enjoyed this book in a somewhat smaller "large" format, if that makes any sense. I'm not sure what the perfect size would have been but something a bit more handy. Something larger than normal comic book size, but not quite this big (actual dimensions of the book are over 9 x 12, with a neat flexi-paperback cover.)

Wolverton's Spacehawk is not as well known as his later work in MAD Magazine, but he was trying to break into syndicated comic strips back in the 1930s and 40s at the same time that Buck Rogers, and soon after, Flash Gordon made debuts. His timing wasn't as lucky, but he was eventually published and his legacy lives on, preserved in this prestige format collection. 

Later on, in the 40s, when editors forced his hero to come back to Earth to fight the Axis of Evil in World War II, Wolverton feared his strip would loose its strength and surely enough it was cancelled. I learned all of this from the introduction, written by Monte Wolverton, Basil's son, an accomplished editor, illustrator and writer himself.

Monte speaks with reverence of his father's work, and understandably so, as each lead-in illustration was masterfully crafted as depicted in my attempts to capture in photos.

Within the pages in each battle the 'hero from the void,' battles evil villains, obliterates aliens bent on destruction and travels to the far reaches of space in his spacecraft. He mercilessly handles out justice and is an unflawed heroic icon, clearly a product of the era, as Wolverton's son reflects in the Introduction.

This collection would make a wonderful gift for any fan of early sci-fi comics and science fiction. It is also available as a digital comic via the Comixology app (I downloaded the preview there, which led me to purchase the print edition.) Either way, it is a win.

Go get lost in space.


Found Object: Rocks and Minerals, a Golden Press book from 1957

I found this Golden Nature Guide while running jewelry related errands with my wife in New Jersey a while back. I thought it was a neat little piece of publishing history. I immediately liked this miniature reference book, especially the jacket with the rock hammer, which reminded me of "The Shawshank Redemption," and if you've seen that great film, you'll know exactly why.

I also loved seeing the $1.25 retail price, a clear reflection of its publication year, 1957, when it was produced in the USA by Western Publishing Company, Inc., published by the Golden Press. For a little history on Golden Press, click here.

Filled with charming illustrations such as this one of a prospecting couple exploring subterranean rock structures, Rocks and Minerals, a Golden Nature Guide, was not just a flat reference book but more a piece of cultural history and reflected the era it was published. Within the small paperback, all 160 pages included great photos, classic illustration work and well researched information. 

Perhaps it is the fact that I work at DK which helps me appreciate the history of well done reference books these days.

Also, it could just be the rock hammer.

DEAR CYBORGS by Eugene Lim, a little review

I had read a great little article on LitHub.com about this new novel from Eugene Lim and went to seek it out. Soon after I had acquired...